Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Brooklyn Sails The Mac

Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-aw) Island is a very small island that sits in the Mackinac Straits between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan and between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The island doesn't allow cars, so transportation is limited to horse and buggy, bicycle or walking. Mackinac Island is also the finish line to two of the largest, most challenging regattas in the world -- the Mac Races (or more formally known as the "Race to Mackinac" sponsored by the Chicago Yacht Club and the Bayview Mackinac (or Port Huron to Mackinac) Race sponsored by Bayview Yacht Club of Detroit.) The Mac races are also the largest fresh water regattas in the world.

On Saturday, July 15, Sail Brooklyn will be taking a little hiatus to participate in the 82nd running of the Bayview Mackinac race. More than 300 boats, ranging from the 86-foot Windquest to 27-feet (there are two that size), comprising 20 classes in two divisions will race the distance of Lake Huron to Mackinac Island. And while sailing cogniscenti may not recognize the Midwest as one of the most active sailing scenes in the country, the proof is in the data: more than 20-percent of the fleet are sailing in one-design classes, including eight GL-70s; seven J-105s; eight NA-40s; nine J-120s; 12 J35s; and 17 C&C 35s (Mk-I), warhorses from early 1970s.
We'll be racing on Bananas, a 1978 North American-40 (NA-40). The NA-40, designed by Dick Carter, was commissioned by Detroit sailors in the late 70s who wanted their own one-design racer. Our fleet of eight NA-40s is racing on the Shore Course (aka the Ladies Tees), which is 204 nautical miles up Lake Huron. (The other course, the Southampton Course, is 253nm and is named for the Southampton light you round before heading north). The NA-40 class, while small, and somewhat disrespected by the local Detroit fleet, is very competitive. Two years ago in the Bayview Mackinac Race, after more than 200 miles from Port Huron, it came down to a tacking duel between three boats for second place. The winning NA-40 of that year, Majic Star, beat the class by a good margin and was first overall (corrected time) among the Shore Course fleet.

The majority of participants are Midwestern, but it also draws sailors from across the country and around the world to compete in the challenging conditions of the Great Lakes, where sometimes the breezes are fickle and 30-minutes later, a storm, out of nowhere, builds to incredible strength. Last year's race, the fastest race on record, had a Sunday night squall producing winds over 30-knots dismasting one boat and tearing countless sails.

In addition to unpredictable conditions, the Mac is known for its parties. The first is Boat Night, which is the party the Friday before the race. Thousands from metro Detroit head to Port Huron to see the fleet rafted up on the Black River and to have a good time. The second race is the Awards Party, taking place on the Tuesday. The party is on a beautiful piece of land, off Mission Point on Mackinac Island, which overlooks the majestic Staits. Typically a somewhat raucous, but very fun event has a mix of drunken sailors, in various states of drunkenness, their drunken wives, some kids and a mix of others. When the official party ends, the party continues at the Pink Pony Bar until the wee hours of the evening.


At Wednesday, July 19, 2006 9:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi - good to know there are fellow sailors in Bklyn. Of course, I am reduced to crewing on a J24 out of North Cove these days. But what other alternatives are there, really, for the car-less urban sailor? Where do they have affordable moorings in this city? BC

At Friday, July 21, 2006 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Brooklyn Salt said...

Thanks for the note.

A few options for the car-free urban sailor. 1) City Island. There are throngs of sailors who take a bus to City Island for Wednesday Night regattas. Check some of the local clubs (and check our posting on city Island, we have some links); 2) Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. You can take a subway down to Sheepshead bay. At Miramar Y.C. there are a few members who live in manhattan, don't own cars, but own a boat. They use the club moorings for their boat; 3) Jersey. You can go across to Port Imperial an see who's sailing there.

At Tuesday, July 25, 2006 12:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips. City island is a good place, indeed, but still a bit out of reach from Bklyn where I live. I'll check out the Miramar. Question - what sort of winds prevail on sheepshead bay? The Sound can be pretty fluky in the summer, and in NY harbor last sunday we just bobbed for hours in the lee of buildings waiting for a sea breeze than never came.

At Tuesday, July 25, 2006 3:42:00 PM, Blogger Brooklyn Salt said...

Sometimes I sail in Sheepshead Bay proper, but mostly, its a mooring field. We sail primarily in the Rocaway Inlet (between Coney Island and Breezy Point), Jamiaca Bay and the lower Harbor.

Breezes are typically Southerly. Winds are OK in the morning, they die at noon, and start building around 1:00 p.m. and beging to blast over 15 knots around 4 or 5 p.m. The sailing is great, easy access for cruising, lots of wind and not too much traffic. You just have to be careful of the fishing boats anchored in the middle of the channels (if you go outside of the channel, you'll run aground in some spots).

I belive Miramar has a "seek & sail" next weekend, where they get take out non-club members to check out the sailing. I'll do a posting on it closer to the date.

At Tuesday, July 25, 2006 10:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. Look forward to the post on seek-n-sail. I understand they have a fleet of Ensigns. Pretty boats, I'd love to see what they're like.

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